Follow by Email


A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A French-language writer - Gauz - who will be worth reading when his novel comes out in English

It's surprising, halfway through Best European Fiction 2017, how few of these stories and selections from novels have anything explicitly to say about the changes, struggles, and crises in Europe today; most of these pieces could just as well have been written by an American writer - although perhaps they're a little more experimental in form than most contemporary American work, which may be typical of European fiction or may just represent the taste of the editors. One exception, and perhaps the most interesting piece in the first half of the anthology, is by the French-language writer Gauz, living in Paris and a native of the Ivory Coast, an excerpt from his novel Stand-by-the-Hour. The piece begins with a description of a job fair at which a recruitment firm is hiring a vast # of men to work as store security; all of the applicants are French-speaking of African descent - and Gauz has some striking passages in which he ticks off the cultural differences - in clothing, in style - that mark one African nationality from another. This passage gives us a sense of the struggles of the African immigrants (or sons of immigrants) and helps us see a segment of the capitalist system generally hidden from view: who are these men who take these dreary jobs of literally standing by the hour, paying watch and keeping the peace simply through their slightly threatening presence? Then we take a step aside w/ two of the men who are living in one of those Parisian shared apartments - they clear out during the day and leave the room to workers on the night shift; Gauz gives us the sense of the despair of their lives and the need to stay out of trouble - and they seem headed for trouble as they befriend a seriously drunk white woman and literally carry her back to their apartment where they hope she'll sleep it off and sober up. This seems like a novel worth reading, if and when it appears in English. Another piece of note is the Hungarian writer Zsuzsa Selyem's story Confectionary 1952, which describes a police interrogation of those suspected of anti-Soviet activism; strangely, the story seems to be narrated by some kind of insect or animal that thrives off the blood of the prisoners - a mosquito, maybe? Very unusual perspective; but why focus on the politics of that long-ago era? I really expected more in this anthology about multicultural tensions, the immigration crises, terrorism, Brexit - life today in Europe.

No comments:

Post a Comment